BRAVE, cancer-ravaged VALERIE HARPER has undertaken the heartbreaking task of planning her own funeral.
Although the former “Rhoda” star had initially wanted to be cremated, her husband of 26 years, Tony Cacciotti, was dead-set against it. So the two recently visited the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, where they selected a beautiful plot in the Garden of Legends.
“They stayed for a very long time to pick out the perfect place,” said a senior family adviser at the cemetery. “Valerie was beautiful, upbeat and had a very bright spirit, despite her battle with cancer.
“She seemed very much at peace with herself. Once they found (the right spot), Valerie exclaimed, ‘This is it!’”
Valerie, 73, will be buried in a mausoleum that looks like a four-poster black lacquer bed with enough room to place Tony beside her. The couple picked the spot near a lake, “which has a perfect view of the Hollywood sign,” noted the family counselor.
Another cemetery worker revealed that Valerie’s final resting place will be near the grave of rocker Johnny Ramone of The Ramones and a memorial to Academy Award winner Hattie McDaniel, who played Mammy in “Gone with the Wind.”
Valerie, who was diagnosed with a rare terminal brain cancer in January, is already living on borrowed time – her doctors originally gave her just three to six months to live.
DESPITE gaining some weight and losing hair due to steroid and chemotherapy treatments, the actress continues to work. She filmed an episode of Betty White’s TV Land show, “Hot in Cleveland,” with her “Mary Tyler Moore Show” cast mates Moore, White, Cloris Leachman and Georgia Engel that will air Sept. 4.
She’s also shooting a one-hour NBC special documentary, hosted by Meredith Vieira, chronicling her battle with the incurable disease.
Noted the pal: “Valerie wants to stay busy until the bitter end.”